This year, instead of going abroad for my summer holidays, I decided to spend a week back in the comfort of sunny Chardon, Ohio (also known as my family hometown). Mid-July, after a sunny week in London, I headed off on a plane for Chicago, to ultimately take the final leg of my flight to Cleveland.
Cleveland use to be a major hub of an airport, with (you’ll never believe this if you go to this tiny airport now) flights to the UK directly. DIRECT! What a thing of dreams these days. Hopkins International Airport only keeps the name alive through a flight to Toronto, Canada. A 45 minute journey on a 30 seater egg-beater with wings. Hardly international.
But I digress. My biggest complaint is with the Chicago O’Hare Airport itself – a nightmare for international travellers, whether American or otherwise. AVOID AT ALL COSTS!
Now, I fly British Airways (BA) on nearly all my international flights. This airline was my first in flying to London, and I had such incredible service for cattle class that I cannot be on any alternative flight without someone else booking that ticket for me. I will always recommend a BA flight internationally. They greet me with smiles and lovely British accents, great service, and good food. I flew their 747 jet (my personal favourite) out to Chicago. It was when I got off the plane when I was faced with the horror that is International Terminal Customs.
What the heck is going on here?! The queue for the citizens alone was nearly back into the plane. No signs. Not to mention anyone helpful to tell us what was going on. In the citizens lane, we were shuttled into this pen with new machinery that was to take our photos and basically do the work of the customs officer for us. Was it confusing? Yes. Was it poorly laid out with no directions on how to use the system? Yes. Was it manned by people who cannot speak nor understand much English? Unfortunately yes. Not the best place for them – cue frustration on both sides.
I got a photo taken with a big X marks the spot – and shuffled back to a customs officer anyways. A complete waste of time.
I had a lot of spare time before my next flight, because I knew from previous experience that Chicago’s International Terminal is a nightmare. But never was it THAT much of a nightmare. My seven hour layover was cut down to three by the time I resurfaced on the domestic side of the airport. No joke. I went straight to the bar to drown my sorrows in a cold pint of Sam Adams (excellent choice of beer if over on that side of the Atlantic). I had to readjust my speech once there… Doesn’t help that the majority of my adult life so far has been spent in England, I couldn’t think of the American equivalent for pint or another word for bill as the man behind the bar had no idea what I was talking about.
At the end of a long journey (coupled with a flight cancellation just after all of the above hassle), I was home and extremely jet lagged. Lesson learned: never fly through Chicago again if you can help it!